International Student Design Competition Accessories Winner 2023: Alida Xavier

Accessories Winner 2023: Alida Xavier

International Student Design Competition Accessories Winner 2023: Alida Xavier

6th October 2023

Alida Xavier is a skilled leather artisan with a focus on sustainable production methods, particularly in optimising off-cuts generated throughout various manufacturing stages. She holds an MA in Luxury Accessory Design and Management, specialising in Accessories, Footwear, and Contemporary Craft, from Istituto Marangoni. Alida’s expertise lies at the intersection of fashion, art, and design, making her a well-rounded professional in the field.

 

INTERVIEW WITH ALIDA

Tell us about the inspiration behind your project:

My project initially began as a personal endeavour that reflected my identity as a designer. It was essentially a mind-map, a creative canvas that encompassed everything that intrigued me, coupled with several ideas I yearned to incorporate into a tangible product. These focal points propelled me into an extensive research phase, where I delved into the practices of various brands and explored diverse crafting techniques. I gathered a treasure trove of reference images, primarily focusing on different weaving patterns sourced from books and videos.

The primary inspiration behind my project revolved around addressing the significant problem of leather waste. Specifically, I honed in on the abundant off-cuts generated during production, often discarded due to cutting errors or visible defects that become inconspicuous when cut into strips. It struck me that these imperfections didn’t render these materials any less valuable. Consequently, the idea of basket weaving these off-cuts emerged as the guiding inspiration for my capsule collection. The objective was clear: to maximize the utilization of these off-cuts, thereby generating zero additional waste. Furthermore, the resulting strips are highly durable, easily repairable and ensures longevity even if they encounter damage.

 

What are your thoughts on leather and sustainability, and how you think leather can adapt to a fashion industry increasingly focused on sustainability?

In my perspective, leather and sustainability are inherently intertwined, and leather stands as an exceptionally sustainable material. To adapt leather to the evolving fashion industry’s sustainability focus, it’s crucial for existing manufacturing facilities and luxury brands to collaborate and address critical aspects such as leather off-cuts and production strategies. Additionally, dispelling the prevalent misconceptions surrounding leather is essential, as it unjustly carries negative connotations.

A key strategy involves fostering clear communication and establishing a unified approach toward utilizing the waste generated in leather production. This entails deploying a skilled workforce to categorize and manage this waste, thereby contributing to a more sustainable industry when viewed from a broader perspective. A finished piece of skin and hide holds considerable untapped potential, and I firmly believe none of that should go to waste.

Furthermore, the establishment of dedicated decomposition sites specifically designed for discarded leather, with stringent environmental safeguards in place is essential to rectify these misconceptions and foster genuine consumer awareness, ultimately reshaping the industry’s perception of leather as a sustainable and responsible choice.

 

What has been your experience in working with leather for this competition?

My experience working with leather for this competition has been both enlightening and transformative. While I have previously focused on creating commercially viable designs using primarily chrome-tanned leather, this marked the first occasion I delved extensively into the realm of vegetable-tanned leather, examining it from its raw composition to its end-of-life decomposition.

During this process, I had the opportunity to fashion something entirely handmade, relying solely on a combination of knotting and weaving techniques without the need for additional reinforcements. This achievement was made possible through the unique properties of unfinished vegetable-tanned leather, which can be moulded to conform to various shapes and objects using water. What sets it apart is its ability to maintain its form and integrity for an extended period, ensuring its longevity and versatility for creative endeavours.

 

How has this competition influenced your view of working with leather in the future? 

This competition has provided me with a platform to not only endorse but also actively contribute to a potential solution for the prevailing stigma associated with leather. Through this experience, I have gained a newfound confidence in working with leather, bolstered by the knowledge that there is a supportive community advocating for the use of this natural by-product, which essentially represents one of the oldest forms of recycling.

I’m driven by the idea that each upcycled leather product I create can be treasured and passed down from one generation to the next, with no concerns about its quality diminishing over time. This approach aligns perfectly with my vision for a sustainable and enduring legacy in leather craftsmanship.

 

Click here to view all the shortlisted entries from this year’s International Competition.

Click here to learn more about leather and sustainability.